Reports say a relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was mistakenly killed by coalition forces in Afghanistan, as the problem of civilian casualties there continues to cloud the U.S. relationship.
BBC News reports that Yar Muhammad Khan was shot and killed in an overnight raid on his home near Kandahar city. “There were operations taking place near his house. He was killed by mistake. He was not a target," Karzai’s brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, is quoted as saying.
Khan has been described as a cousin of either Karzai or the president's father; the technical details of their relationship remain unclear. Karzai spokesmanWaheed Omar said Karzai knew the man who died and that they were from the same village.
"He was extremely sad, just as he's sad over any incident that takes the life of any innocent Afghan civilian," he said, according to the BBC report.
The reported killing follows the recent mistaken killing of nine Afghan children when two U.S. attack helicopters fired on what they thought were insurgents. That case triggered public protests in Afghanistan, and Karzai first rejected the personal apology of the top commander of U.S. forces there, Gen. DavidPetraeus. He relented when Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the strike "breaks our heart" and called it a "setback" for U.S. relations with the Afghan people.
More Afghan civilians died last year than ever before in the conflict, the United Nations said Wednesday.
According to a U.N. annual report, 2,777 Afghan civilians died in 2010, a figure up 15 percent from the year before. Yet militants killed 75 percent of those Afghan civilians, the report said, largely through roadside bombs, suicide attacks, and targeted assassinations, a 28 percent increase from 2009.
Meanwhile, civilian deaths attributed to coalition forces dropped by 26 percent last year.